Two pariahs, shaking hands and trading deadly technologies in the pursuit of human misery. It is a measure of how desperate Vladimir Putin has grown that he is today meeting Kim Jong-un in Russia’s far east, scrounging around for arms in return for which he could help to develop North Korea’s military satellite technology.
The prize, as Putin sees it, is clear: North Korea may have tens of millions of ageing, Soviet-compatible artillery shells that could help to resupply the Russian army, which continues its assault on Ukraine following its invasion launched last year. Any deal involving the transfer of military technology could also include economic aid to the North Korean regime, perhaps the most brutal and repressive in the world. Such an agreement would violate sanctions once supported by Russia.
Like any distressed dictator, Putin seeks to portray strength. Yet his meeting with Kim demonstrates anything but. Instead, it speaks to a man isolated, scratching around for support from anywhere he can find it.
The economic indicators appear to be all over the place. Revisions to data from the Office for National Statistics this month showed that the economy has recovered better from Covid-19 than first thought, putting the UK in the middle of the G7 pack rather than being a laggard.
Yet there is little to be cheery about today. The British economy shrank by 0.5 per cent in July, with the wet summer weather and rolling strikes hitting GDP. Early indicators suggest a weak August as well, with economists now warning that a recession this year is “increasingly likely”. With wage growth still at elevated levels and mortgage rates uncomfortably high for many, the Bank of England has little room for manoeuvre as it decides whether a further interest rate hike is necessary to bring inflation back to target. Whatever its decision, there is plenty of pain — for both households and ministers — to come.
Libya needs our help
Indescribable devastation — that is what happens when you combine climate change with a failed state. And that is the situation in Libya, where thousands of people are already confirmed dead as a powerful storm burst dams leading to catastrophic flooding in the city of Derna.
Mass graves have been dug, as officials fear the death toll could exceed 5,000. Many are believed to have been swept out to sea. The British Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal to assist those affected. Please donate if you can at: donate.redcross.org.uk/appeal/libya-floods-appeal